本篇访谈主角为犹太教拉比 Mordechai Abergel, 38, was born in Paris, grew up in Brussels and pursued his Rabbinical studies in New York. Ordained in 1992, he has been the spiritual leader of the Jewish community in Singapore since 1994.
THERE’S no doubt that we have a lot of bad and evil in this world, a lot of pride, trouble, conflict and wars.
At the end of the day, however, I believe in the goodness of people, in the greatness of the human heart and the ability to give of oneself.
We cannot change the world with giant strides, but we can change it with one small deed at a time. That’s a very Jewish principle — we change the world with deeds.
The whole idea is to spread light because light dispels darkness.
One little candle can do a lot in a big place which is pitch dark.
The statistics of casualties from war, strife and disasters are the darkness, so we need to light a little candle, dispel a bit of the gloom and doom.
Cynics will scoff but let me tell you a story. A rabbi was interviewed on the BBC, and he was talking about changing the world with small deeds.
The interviewer asked him: "What can you do to change the world with one small deed now?"
The rabbi said: "Everybody listening to this programme now, just give five cents to charity."
Now, millions of people were listening to that programme. Can you imagine the impact if some of them did just that? The point is, it doesn’t take a lot to make a difference.
When I look at the world, what pains me a great deal is the insensitivity: I’ve seen readers turning the pages when they come across newspaper reports of suicide bombers causing the deaths of more than 50 people.
We are getting so desensitised. We have to recognise that something is not right and we have to so something about it.
World leaders today can’t come to a consensus to look at the root of a problem and fight it.
Look at what’s happening in Darfur (the 21st century’s first case of genocide is reported in this war-torn region of Western Sudan), it’s a truly horrible situation.
But many world leaders are not concerned or doing anything about it because it’s not in their national interest. It saddens me, we have a problem on the world level.
However, we cannot sit there and say that governments and countries are not doing their parts. It has to start with the individual, with us.
What also bothers me is the lack of tolerance, the lack of education that brings about that.
And that’s what’s so great about Singapore. Here, we not only tolerate but respect someone who is different.
Everyone has a place on this earth, he has the right to exist and thrive, and his spiritual heritage is as good as anyone else’s.
Those must be the fundamentals we subscribe to.
The world today is on the brink. You could either take one role and end up in the abyss or you could take another and have a better future.
I’d like to believe that if we can change people, one at a time, we could also change the world.
But we have to do that ourselves, and not subcontract it to someone else. We can’t say: "I’ve got a job, a wife and a life, so you go change the world. I don’t have time."
We came into this world to do a job, not to have fun. You have to have purpose, you have to be fired up, you can’t be a meatloaf.
The fact is, you cannot make a difference unless you have a purpose: that’s how you bring meaning to your life. You start with yourself, move on to your family, neighbours…
You have to have hope, you have to believe in the goodness of the human being, and that everyone has the capacity to be something special.
Peace, to me, is based on truth. You cannot have peace if you don’t have the truth. You cannot have truth when a person’s freedom or belief is compromised.
People confuse joy with fun. But you can have the worst possible economic conditions confronting you and be a truly joyful person.
Happiness is when a person is truly happy with what he has, not focus on what he doesn’t have.
I try very hard to find that joy. Every day when I come home, I look at my five kids and tell myself that they are the best kids I could hope for. They are healthy, normal.
I try not to let thoughts of status and money cross my mind. What makes a difference is the kind of children you leave in the world.
Are they going to go through life perpetuating the values you want them to? If that’s the case, you’ve had a good life.
People have to remember that it’s not the destination, but the journey that counts.
At work, you are judged by results and productivity but people seldom care about how much effort you put in.
In Judaism, we look at it the other way round. You didn’t get there? Never mind. But what effort did you put in?
~ By Wong Kim Hoh, The Straits Times, 23-12-2006